News

Wed
20
Jun

Changes in store for Downtown DeLand landmarks

Centrally located — This aerial shot of Downtown DeLand, looking south-southwest, shows several landmarks, including the Volusia County Historic Courthouse, DeLand City Hall, and the 0.86-acre Old Volusia County Jail (see arrow). The property fronts both West Georgia and West New York avenues, and is prime real estate for redevelopment. 

Centrally located — This aerial shot of Downtown DeLand, looking south-southwest, shows several landmarks, including the Volusia County Historic Courthouse, DeLand City Hall, and the 0.86-acre Old Volusia County Jail (see arrow). The property fronts both West Georgia and West New York avenues, and is prime real estate for redevelopment. 

FLYING CAT DRONEWORKS PHOTO FOR THE BEACON BY ANTHONY DeFEO

In moves that could see jail cells replaced by apartments and a bingo hall give way to firefighters’ quarters, two prominent, historic Downtown DeLand buildings are now on a path to transformation.

The DeLand City Commission took initial steps at its June 18 meeting to decide on a future for the Old Volusia County Jail at 130 W. New York Ave., and the DeLand Elks Lodge at 150 S. Clara Ave.

Commissioners voted 4-0, with Vice Mayor Leigh Matusick absent, to purchase the Elks property for $875,000. The deal must still be approved by the Elks’ Grand Lodge, but if it goes through, the city intends to construct a replacement for Fire Station No. 81 on the 2.59-acre site.

DeLand Public Services Director Keith Riger said the current station, at 201 W. Howry Ave., is nearing the end of its useful life. The city began exploring options to rebuild or replace the station in 2016, initially focusing on rebuilding the station at its current location.

Wed
20
Jun

Goodbye, Jim Dinneen: County manager to exit June 22

RESTIVE CROWD — An overflow crowd attended this morning's meeting of the Volusia County Council. Many members of the audience had signs urging the council to "Fire Jim Dinneen." The elected officials listened, voting that Dinneen will leave Friday, instead of January as he had requested in his resignation letter.

RESTIVE CROWD — An overflow crowd attended this morning's meeting of the Volusia County Council. Many members of the audience had signs urging the council to "Fire Jim Dinneen." The elected officials listened, voting that Dinneen will leave Friday, instead of January as he had requested in his resignation letter.

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

It was certain County Manager Jim Dinneen would leave, but when he would go was not clear until the County Council voted June 19.

With a standing-room-only crowd in the meeting room — some carrying signs that said “Fire Jim Dinneen” — council members decided Dinneen would leave Friday, June 22, instead of in January, as his June 13 resignation letter had outlined.

The county manager will sail out on a golden parachute. His contract gives him a year’s salary if he resigns. That’s $249,047.28 per year.

Dinneen will also receive pay for accumulated leave to the tune of $156,648.34, but $160,128.33 will be deducted from his severance payout for taxes and contributions to the Florida Retirement System. His net pay will be $245,567.29. 

Dinneen’s contract also called for him to work a six-month transition period after quitting, but the County Council voted to waive that requirement.

Mon
18
Jun

County asked to OK apartments

Integra Dunes LLC is proposing to build 274 apartments next to Victoria Park in DeLand. 

New apartments? — Integra Dunes LLC is proposing to build 274 apartments next to Victoria Park in DeLand. 

COURTESY VOLUSIA COUNTY PLANNING AND LAND DEVELOPMENT REGULATION COMMISSION

A proposal to build 274 apartments next to Victoria Park in DeLand goes before the Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission on June 21.

The project submitted by Integra Dunes LLC and DeLand attorney Alex Ford calls for rezoning 16 acres on the west side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway from Community Classification to Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD). 

The land is in the unincorporated area of the county, but it adjoins Victoria Park, which is inside the DeLand city limits.

The gated apartment complex is to have 18 units per acre, with green space for buffering. 

The proposal provides for buildings with a maximum height of 40 feet. 

As well as more standard townhouses, the project will feature “carriage houses,” which are “townhome-type units with garages on the first floor and living area on the second floor, each building having two units.”

Mon
18
Jun

Foodie File: DeLand to get new Cuban cafe

Salud! — Behind the counter of soon-to-open Chica’s Cuban Cafe, co-owner Ileana Castro, center, friend Kookie Diaz and Castro’s son Enrique Flores raise tres espresso cups in celebration of the new eatery.

Salud! — Behind the counter of soon-to-open Chica’s Cuban Cafe, co-owner Ileana Castro, center, friend Kookie Diaz and Castro’s son Enrique Flores raise tres espresso cups in celebration of the new eatery.

BEACON PHOTO/ERIKA WEBB

Full of history — This historic former home at 208 W. Howry Ave. was built in 1936, according to the Volusia County Property Appraiser. It was long home to the offices of well-known DeLand attorney Joseph Scarlett III, and more recently to the Aparo-Griffin Properties real estate office and Julia's Floral Designs.  Those businesses have relocated, making way for Chica's Cuban Cafe.

Full of history — This historic former home at 208 W. Howry Ave. was built in 1936, according to the Volusia County Property Appraiser. It was long home to the offices of well-known DeLand attorney Joseph Scarlett III, and more recently to the Aparo-Griffin Properties real estate office and Julia's Floral Designs.  Those businesses have relocated, making way for Chica's Cuban Cafe.

BEACON PHOTO/BARB SHEPHERD 

Chica’s hopes to open in a few weeks

A delicious slice of Havana is coming to Downtown DeLand, possibly by the end of June.

Ileana and Isidro Castro are eager to open the doors of Chica’s Cuban Cafe in newly renovated space inside a charming old cottage on Howry Avenue, across from the DeLand Police Department and fire station.

“The location could not be more safe,” said family friend Kookie Diaz. Her daughter Zoe Diaz will work at the cafe.

During the first week of June, Ileana Castro said she and her husband were finishing up interior renovations and hoped to open by June 30. 

Aside from wondering when, locals are asking, What?

Castro doesn’t want eager patrons to be misled.

“It’s not a restaurant; it’s more of a cafe, with a little bit of everything,” she said.

Fri
15
Jun

Man shot, killed in Orange City domestic disturbance

Volusia County sheriff’s detectives are investigating an early-morning domestic disturbance in Orange City that ended with a man being shot and killed.

The shooting was reported around 3:30 a.m. at 720 Highland Drive, Orange City, according to Volusia County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant.

Deputies and Orange City police officers responding to the scene found the shooting victim inside the home. A deputy performed CPR on the victim, until paramedics arrived on scene.

Detectives interviewed the shooter, who remained on scene after the shooting. Gant said the shooter is the boyfriend of the adult male victim’s mother.

The investigation was still ongoing Friday morning, and the victim’s name had not been released.

— Anthony DeFeo

Thu
14
Jun

County manager resigns

MAKING A POINT — Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen addresses County Council members’ concerns about the Medical Examiner’s Office, in light of the letter of resignation submitted by a recently appointed examiner. Dinneen himself is resigning, after more than a dozen years of operating the county government. The council, while dealing with a budget and election season, must now seek a replacement for Dinneen, who plans to step down in January.

MAKING A POINT — Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen addresses County Council members’ concerns about the Medical Examiner’s Office, in light of the letter of resignation submitted by a recently appointed examiner. Dinneen himself is resigning, after more than a dozen years of operating the county government. The council, while dealing with a budget and election season, must now seek a replacement for Dinneen, who plans to step down in January.

BEACON PHOTO/AL EVERSON

After 12 years of serving as chief operating officer of the enterprise known as the Volusia County government, Jim Dinneen is preparing to exit.

News of Dinneen’s pending departure comes in his resignation letter addressed to County Council members. The resignation becomes effective Jan. 11, 2019. Dinneen has so far not responded to The Beacon’s request for an interview.

“They say time flies when you’re having fun. If so, then that explains why the last 12 ½ years in Volusia County have been fabulous and fleeting,” he wrote in the June 13 letter, adding he has been supported in his work by “an evolving cadre of professional staff second to none anywhere in the public sector.”

Dinneen said his remaining time as manager will be quite busy.

Wed
13
Jun

Teachers, school district at odds again

WORKING FOR CHANGE — With negotiations between their union and Volusia County school officials on the rocks, teachers and their supporters rallied outside a Volusia County School Board meeting May 8. Social-justice advocacy group Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony, or FAITH, held a prayer vigil at the meeting, advocating for the board to reform school policies on student discipline.

WORKING FOR CHANGE — With negotiations between their union and Volusia County school officials on the rocks, teachers and their supporters rallied outside a Volusia County School Board meeting May 8. Social-justice advocacy group Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony, or FAITH, held a prayer vigil at the meeting, advocating for the board to reform school policies on student discipline.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

Gaps on pay, insurance and more raise specter of impasse

Despite months of bargaining, negotiations between the Volusia County School Board and the teachers union are at a standstill.

Differences over compensation, health insurance, the length of the elementary school day, and even what kind of clothes teachers should wear have had the two sides at loggerheads since work on a new contract for teachers began in April. 

The disputes echo similar contention during the district/union negotiations in 2015-16, which ended in an impasse, with the two sides eventually agreeing to a two-year settlement. 

“We’re kind of in limbo right now, I guess you could say,” Andrew Spar, president of the Volusia United Educators union, said June 12.

Wed
13
Jun

Orlando child killer had ties to West Volusia

The 35-year-old Orlando man who shot and killed four children during a 21-hour standoff with police June 10 and 11 had been in a DeLand courtroom May 23 for  violating the terms of his probation.

The Orlando Police Department said Gary Wayne Lindsey Jr. killed himself June 11, after shooting to death his two children and his girlfriend’s two children, ages 1, 6, 10 and 11, inside the couple’s home.

The girlfriend, police said, had left the apartment Sunday evening and summoned police after being battered by Lindsey. When police responded, Lindsey shot Orlando Officer Kevin Valencia, who remains hospitalized in critical condition.

Following the shooting of Valencia, dozens more officers from the Orlando Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office attempted to communicate and negotiate with Lindsey through the night and the following day. Finally, about 8:30 p.m. Monday, officers entered the apartment to find Lindsey and the children all dead.

Wed
13
Jun

Constitutional change could confound county charter

ASKING FOR AUTONOMY — Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood speaks at an April dedication of a veterans monument in DeLand. If a ballot measure passes this fall, Chitwood could become a constitutional officer, giving him greater autonomy from the rest of the county government.  

ASKING FOR AUTONOMY — Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood speaks at an April dedication of a veterans monument in DeLand. If a ballot measure passes this fall, Chitwood could become a constitutional officer, giving him greater autonomy from the rest of the county government.  

BEACON FILE PHOTO

County sues over state amendment on ballot

Voters are supposed to cast ballots this fall on a change to the Florida Constitution that would give Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood the additional autonomy he’s been looking for.

County officials aren’t wild about it.

The county and two architects of Volusia County’s home-rule charter have sued in the Circuit Court of Leon County to keep the amendment off your ballot.

On the other hand, the sheriff said he’s working with the Florida Sheriffs Association for the amendment’s passage.

“This is an issue that affects every sheriff in the state of Florida,” Chitwood said. “All sheriffs in Florida want to be in charge.”

Although he is elected by the people, under the current county-government structure, the sheriff said, he can do nothing without County Manager Jim Dinneen’s approval.

Wed
13
Jun

DeLand favorite ‘Generous Joe’ Romano retires again

FIRST RETIREMENT — Joe Romano stands, in 2014, before the boiled-peanut stand he opened on Old New York Avenue to keep himself busy during his first retirement. On June 6, Romano worked at the stand for his final day. This retirement is real, his daughter said. Joe Romano turned 88 on April 14.

FIRST RETIREMENT — Joe Romano stands, in 2014, before the boiled-peanut stand he opened on Old New York Avenue to keep himself busy during his first retirement. On June 6, Romano worked at the stand for his final day. This retirement is real, his daughter said. Joe Romano turned 88 on April 14.

BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

​​​​​​​SHE MADE THE CHEESECAKE — Joe Romano is shown with his wife, Dee, in this undated photo from The Beacon files. Their daughter Tracy Romano Anderson recalled that her mother was a key to the success of Mano’s Italian Restaurant. She created many of the eatery’s recipes, and baked delicious cheesecake, Anderson said.

SHE MADE THE CHEESECAKE — Joe Romano is shown with his wife, Dee, in this undated photo from The Beacon files. Their daughter Tracy Romano Anderson recalled that her mother was a key to the success of Mano’s Italian Restaurant. She created many of the eatery’s recipes, and baked delicious cheesecake, Anderson said.

BEACON FILE PHOTO COURTESY ROMANO FAMILY

FAMILY — Joe Romano, second from left, is at the Old New York Avenue peanut stand with, from left, son-in-law Bill Stoll, grandson Joey Anderson, and Joey’s wife, Layla Anderson.

FAMILY — Joe Romano, second from left, is at the Old New York Avenue peanut stand with, from left, son-in-law Bill Stoll, grandson Joey Anderson, and Joey’s wife, Layla Anderson.

PHOTO COURTESY TRACY ROMANO ANDERSON

Having gone from slinging pizza to selling peanuts, Joe Romano, who owned DeLand’s iconic Mano’s Italian Restaurant — back before eateries were delightfully ubiquitous here — really does plan to retire this time.

Romano’s last day was June 6 at the boiled-peanut stand he opened across from the Amtrak station on Old New York Avenue after his first retirement.

Romano, described by friend Bill “Frogger” Henry as “a rather unsocial duck,” is beloved by longtime DeLandites.

“Imagine the impact he has had on so many lives, especially the Stetson students he hired over the years,” Henry wrote in an email to The Beacon.

Many DeLandites jumped at the opportunity to reminisce via social media about the popular family-style restaurant Romano operated 1962-96 on East Ohio Avenue in Downtown DeLand.

His daughter, Tracy Romano Anderson, noted that Mano’s was situated on the north side of what is now the Stetson Commons apartment complex.

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